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A Guide To Kinsale: Things To Do, Hotels, Food + Pubs

A Guide To Kinsale: Things To Do, Hotels, Food + Pubs

Cork’s Kinsale is one of Ireland’s most famous tourist towns.

Arguably best-known for its colourful streets, Kinsale is a favourite amongst domestic and international tourists alike.

Arguably one of the most beautiful towns in Cork, what it lacks in physical size, it more than makes up for in charm and character.

Below, you’ll discover things to do in Kinsale along with where to eat, where to grab a great pint and where to stay. Cheers!

Some quick need-to-knows about Kinsale in Cork


Photos via Shutterstock


Although a visit to Kinsale in Cork is nice and straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Kinsale sits at the mouth of the River Brandon, which spills into the sea at the town’s harbour. It is on Ireland’s southwest coast, a 35-minute drive from Cork City.

2. A lively (and colourful) little town

Kinsale’s historic streets are lined with vibrant, colourful buildings that house everything from art galleries, craft shops and cafes, to Michelin Starred bistros and ancient pubs. Visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, the streets are seldom empty.

3. The Kinsale Jazz Festival

Every year, Kinsale plays host to one of the top festivals in Ireland – Kinsale Jazz Festival! More than 100 free gigs typically take place, with sessions in almost every pub, bar, and hotel in the town.


A brief history of Kinsale

an old photo of kinsale

National Library of Ireland on The Commons @ Flickr Commons

The gorgeous little town of Kinsale has a long and rich history, with early records dating back to the 12th century.

I’m going to give you a brief history of Kinsale that’ll hopefully whet your appetite for learning more about the area.

The origins of Kinsale

In 1333, the town was granted its first charter, and soon grew to a rather sizable fishing hub.

In Irish, it’s called ‘Cionn tSáile’, which roughly translates to ‘Headland of the sea’.

Its port soon became of military importance, and various castles and forts have protected it and the town for hundreds of years.


The Battle of Kinsale

With close links to Spain, various battles have been fought in Kinsale. In 1601, a contingent of the Spanish Armada that set sail to siege the Kingdom of England, landed in Kinsale.

Here, they joined with rebel Irish forces in a bid to attack England from Ireland.

English forces retaliated, and the Battle of Kinsale took place towards the end of the Nine Year War, in which the rebels and the Spanish were defeated.

The journey to independence 

Charles Fort was built in 1677, and with the older James Fort, was designed to protect the harbour and town, particularly from French and Spanish forces.

The fort was occupied by the Royal Navy for more than 200 years, until Ireland’s independence.

Kinsale’s naval and military significance dropped from around 1805, and the town returned to a humbler way of life.


Things to do Kinsale

Although we go into what to see in the area in detail in our guide on the best things to do in Kinsale, I’ll give you a quick overview below.

From hikes and walks to fine food, historical sites and beautiful beaches, there’s no end to the number of things to do in Kinsale.

1. The ‘main’ attractions

Lusitania Museum

Photos courtesy Shannon Forde via Failte Ireland

There’s plenty to see and do in Kinsale. First, grab a coffee and saunter along the colourful, winding streets, and soak up the buzz of the town.

Then, seek out:

  • Charles Fort
  • James Fort
  • Desmond Castle
  • The Lusitania Museum

Hop into our Kinsale attractions guide if you fancy seeing what else there is to see and do in the town and nearby.


2. Stretch your legs on the Scilly walk

Many looking to explore Kinsale on foot aim for the Old Head of Kinsale walk. However, due to the golf course, this walk is no longer worth attempting.

The Scilly Walk is a very scenic stroll that’s well worth your time! This is a fairly easy-going 6 km loop that takes you from the charming townland of Scilly, just outside of Kinsale, to Charles Fort.

Along the way you’ll follow the water’s edge, with fantastic views out over the harbour and plenty of photo opportunities.

Dotted with great pubs and restaurants, you can easily make a day of it, and also do a tour of Charles Fort while you’re at it.


3. Have a paddle at Kinsale Beach (or one of the many others nearby)


Kinsale has its own small beach, which offers beautiful sand, blue seas, and amazing views.

It’s fairly sheltered, making it an ideal place for a little swimming or paddling if conditions are good and you are a capable swimmer.

It can get a little busy at times, but there are lots of other beaches near Kinsale if you fancy something a little different (Garretstown Beach is a short spin away).


Kinsale accommodation

If you want to base yourself in the town, you’ve your choice of hotels, B&Bs and Airbnbs.

Here are some places I’ve stayed in the past and would definitely stay in again:


Kinsale pubs

While Kinsale is renowned for its restaurants, it’s equally loved for its pubs.

You can discover some great places to nip into in our Kinsale pubs guide, but here are a few of my favourites to get you started.

1. The Greyhound

With a license dating back to 1690, The Greyhound is the oldest of the many pubs in Kinsale. Expect a cosy, rustic, candle-lit interior and great Guinness.

As you stroll inside, you’ll get the sense of stepping back in time, and I mean that in the best possible sense.

2. The Bulman

If you’re doing the Scilly walk, you’ll eventually pass the Bulman Bar. Just 10 metres from the ocean, it’s a good spot to grab a post-walk pint that you can enjoy while gazing across the harbour.

Inside, the bar is full of character, with crackling fireplaces, exposed wooden beams, and an array of nautical knick-knacks. 

3. Kitty Ó Sé’s

If you’re looking for live music in Kinsale, Kitty’s is one of the best. Throughout summer they have sessions pretty much every night, featuring some of the best traditional bands in Cork and beyond.


Restaurants in Kinsale

The Black Pig

Photos via The Black Pig on FB

They don’t call Kinsale the gourmet capital of Ireland for nothing.

You can discover some great places to eat in our Kinsale restaurants guide, but here are a few of my go-tos to get you started.

1. Bruno’s Italian Eatery

Bruno’s dishes up top-notch Italian cuisine, using a wealth of locally sourced Irish ingredients, as well as authentic Italian ones. The wood-fired pizzas that are the main attraction, here.


2. The Black Pig

The Black Pig offers a fine dining experience that’s unmatched in Kinsale. As well as seafood, you’ll find sumptuous meat and vegetarian dishes, again, all sourced locally.

3. Fishy Fishy

Located right on the harbour, Fishy Fishy is the best-known seafood restaurant in Kinsale. The Michelin Plate restaurant, once an art gallery, serves up an array of fresh fish and seafood dishes from an ever-changing menu.


Discover more of Cork

best things to do in Cork Ireland 2024

There’s plenty of things to do in Cork beyond Kinsale. Here are some of my favourites:

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